How Do I Protect Myself from a Premises Liability Lawsuit if I Host a Social Gathering?

How Do I Protect Myself from a Premises Liability Lawsuit if I Host a Social Gathering? Hosting summer parties, cookouts, and social gatherings is a fun thing to do. If you are planning on inviting people to your home in North Tampa, it is a good idea to give adequate attention to party safety and accident prevention. Did you know that if a guest is injured on your property due to your disregard for safety, you could be named in a premises liability lawsuit in Florida? As a Florida homeowner, you have a legal responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent accidents and ensure the safety of your guests. Here are some ways to protect yourself from liability if you host a social gathering-- Repair Obvious Hazards  The first thing that you should do to protect yourself from liability before you host a social gathering is to inspect your property and repair obvious hazards. This might include:
  • Making sure a pool is covered or fenced, or that there is adult supervision if children will be present;
  • Repairing broken walkways, loose railings, or walking dangers;
  • Replacing burned out outdoor lights;
  • Fixing decks and patios; and
  • Making sure a pet dog - if the dog has any aggressive tendencies - is property restrained before guests enter.
If you discover an unsafe condition on your property and you cannot repair it in time, you should post warning so guests can avoid hurting themselves. Use Safe Food Preparation Techniques  Did you know that you can also be sued if you prepare food that is dangerous for your guest to eat, leading to food poisoning? While the chances of this are very slim, you should protect yourself by making sure that you follow all safe food preparation and storage techniques. Be sure to advertise any common allergens you use in foods such as peanuts. Set Some Ground Rules for Alcohol  There is no social host liability in Florida, which means that if you serve alcohol at a private gathering in your home, you cannot be held liable for injuries that occur as a result of intoxication caused by alcohol you served. For example, you serve Bill alcohol, and Bill becomes intoxicated. Then, Bill falls into Betty, causing her to fall and break her arm. Betty can sue Bill, but cannot sue you based on the fact that you were the one serving the alcohol. However, Betty could file a premises liability lawsuit against you if the fall was caused, in part, by a dangerous condition on your property, such as a hole in your yard or broken stairs. Keep in mind that the laws are different if you serve alcohol to a minor. As found in Florida Statutes Section 322.057, you can have your driver’s license revoked if you serve alcohol to a minor. In all scenarios, setting some ground rules for alcohol is smart. Make sure guests know which drinks you are serving contain alcohol (and which don’t), ask for keys of clearly intoxicated drivers, and make sure you serve some alcohol-free options.  Keeping Your Guests - and Yourself - Protected  Remember, you can be sued in Florida if someone is harmed on your property, and it is determined that your failure to correct an unsafe condition caused the injury. To keep everyone safe and protect yourself from liability, fix dangerous conditions on your property, follow safe food preparation tips, and keep the amount of alcohol you are serving - and to whom - in mind.
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James Wayne Holliday

James Wayne Holliday has been practicing law since 1995. He has been named as a “Best Attorney” Lifetime Charter Member in Florida, an honor awarded to less than one percent of the nation’s lawyers.

Mr. Holliday has earned a reputation as a relentless trial lawyer because of his outstanding work ethic and thorough preparation of his cases for trial.

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